Evaluation of the rate of secondary swelling in expansive clays using centrifuge technology
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Expansive soils are characterized as having high amount of clay minerals such as smectite, which lead to swelling during wet seasons by absorbing water and shrinking during dry seasons owing to moisture loss by evapotranspiration. The soil volumetric changes due to moisture fluctuations cause extensive damage to civil engineering structures, namely pavements, retaining walls, low rise buildings and canals founded on such soils. The primary swelling portion of the swell curve has been studied in significant details in previous studies. However, there is a dearth of literature concerning the secondary swelling phenomenon in expansive clays, which has also been observed in experimental studies. While it may be argued that the magnitude of secondary swelling is significantly less as compared to primary swelling, the characterization of the rate of secondary swelling is relevant for fully characterizing the swell potential of the soil. The rate of secondary swelling has been used to predict the long-term swelling of expansive soils. Conventional laboratory swell tests may take over a month for specimens to demonstrate secondary swelling behavior. A centrifuge based method has been recently developed at The University of Texas at Austin to achieve this objective in multiple specimens, and within less than a day. The effects of soil fabric, soil type, relative compaction, molding water content, gravitational gradient, and infiltrating fluid, on the rate of secondary swelling, are thoroughly investigated in this thesis. Four different expansive clays found widely in and around Texas, namely – Eagle Ford Clay, Tan Taylor Clay, Black Taylor Clay and Houston Black Clay, have been used in the study. Based on this extensive experimental evaluation, it may be concluded that secondary swelling behavior could be explained by flow processes associated with the bimodal pore size distribution in expansive clays. The rate of secondary swelling was found to increase with increasing molding water content and increasing compaction dry unit weight. The experimental results revealed that clays with a flocculated structure (compacted dry of optimum) demonstrate rapid primary swelling but exhibit less swelling in the secondary region, as compared to clays with a dispersed structure (compacted wet of optimum). The slope of secondary swelling showed a decline with increasing gravitational gradient. The rate of secondary swelling showed evidence of upward trend with an increase in the plasticity index and clay fraction of the soil. It was observed that soils which exhibit higher primary swelling also demonstrate higher secondary swelling.